Measuring Light With ChipKIT

light meter showing LUX value

How does one go about measuring the amount of light in a given area? With a Light Meter of course! Maintaining proper lighting levels can be very important in places like schools, hospitals and even your own workbench.

[Raj] over at Embedded Labs has put together an excellent tutorial on how to construct your very own light meter based upon the chipKIT platform. The chipKIT Uno32 is similar to Arduino, but boasts a much more powerful PIC32MX320F128 microcontroller.  We’ve seen projects that feature the chipKIT Uno (pdf warning) here before. From playing pong to hosting several temperature sensors, it’s certainly a versatile platform.

The light meter uses an I/O shield and communicates to a BH1750FVI digital light sensor via I2C. The firmware divides the raw data coming off the sensor by a constant, and displays the light intensity data on an OLED display in Lux, foot-candles, and Watts/m^2 units. Be sure to check out the tutorial for full schematics and source.

Sci-Fi Contest Roundup: Star Trek

Star Trek Banner

Ah yes, how could we miss Star Trek? To be honest, we’re surprised there aren’t more entries of Star Trek related projects in our Sci-Fi Contest!

Star Fleet Communicator Badge

4053121396952461870There’s actually no info on this project yet, but we have to admit — it’s a pretty cool (albeit nerdy) concept. They want to fit a Bluetooth headset with a loudspeaker into a Star Fleet Communicator Badge, activated by tapping on it gently.

Just don’t wear a red shirt with it…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star Trek: The Mirror Universe Pinball Machine

star trek the mirror universeThis ones a really cool hack. A team of four have taken a 1978 Bally Star Trek Pinball machine, and converted it into a Star Trek  Mirror Universe Pinball machine based on the TOS episode Mirror, Mirror where Kirk and his crew are transported to a parallel (mirrored) universe!

Notable features include the custom CNC machined table with custom artwork, a Nixie tube score board, and that they’ve made the design open source! Minus copyrighted artwork of course…

 

JJ Tricorder

The JJ Tricorder, named after its team [Julia] and [Jaromir] is planned out to look just like the SR-580 type Tricorder – except its going to be backed with 21st century technology.

jj tricorderThe main goal of the project is to have it be able to detect and analyse electromagnetic, geographic and environmental parameters. There’s lots of inspiration for it, like the now-open-source Berkeley Tricorder or the Tricorder Project itself!

 

 

 

Still haven’t entered the contest? Don’t worry – there’s still time for you to put an awesome Sci-Fi project together to win some crazy cool prizes! It just needs to be done and documented by April 29, 2014!

DIY Multimeter, Arduino Sold Seperately

Arduino-based Multimeter

You can’t argue that Arduinos are extremely popular with the maker/hacker community. Some would say that there is certainly no shortage of projects to make using them. [Milen] thought otherwise and felt it was time to create an Arduino-based multimeter.

At the heart of this project  is a common Arduino Uno. The additional parts were kept to a minimum in order to keep down the overall cost and project complexity. The finished product can measure voltage from 0-100v, amperage up to 500mA and resistance between 0-250 kohm. If you need to check for continuity, it can do that too.

All of the parts required to make the multimeter fit on a shield that plugs directly into the Arduino. Banana plugs allow for attaching test leads. The measurement values are displayed on an LCD screen and/or (if connected) to the Arduino IDE Serial Monitor. If only using the serial monitor, the LCD screen can be omitted to save a few bucks.

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Super Shoes Lead The Way

Super shoe insole with a red sneaker

Many of us spend so much time looking down at our phones that we miss the world all around us. [Dhairya] hopes to change that with Super Shoes, a pair of enhanced insoles that let your toes do the navigating while you enjoy the sights. Each insole has a Bluetooth radio and a microcontroller. Three coin cell vibrator motors act as an output device under the small toes, while a capacitive touch pad under the big toe handles input. Careful positioning of the electronics keeps the foam insoles flexible.

Using the shoes is as simple as walking around. Say you needed walking directions. You would set the destination on your smartphone. The shoes would then tie in to your smartphone’s GPS and maps application. From there, it’s simply a matter of following your toes. If the toes on your left foot vibrate, turn left. Vibration on the right foot indicates a right turn. When your destination is at hand, both feet will vibrate rapidly to celebrate.

[Dhairya] envisions a cloud service called ShoeCentral which will store a database of the user’s likes and dislikes. Based upon this data, ShoeCentral will guide the user to new restaurants or places they may like. All of this and hands free? Where do we sign up?

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Digispark Pro, The Bigger Smaller Dev Board

digi

There has recently been a huge influx of extremely small dev board based on the ATtiny85. This small 8-pin microcontroller is able to run most Arduino sketches,  and the small size and low price of these dev boards means they have been extremely popular. The Digispark was among the first of these small boards, and now the creator is releasing a newer, bigger version dubbed the Digispark Pro.

The new board isn’t based on the ‘tiny85, but rather the ATtiny167. This larger, 20-pin chip adds 10 more I/O pins, and a real hardware SPI interface, but the best features come with the Digispark Pro package. There’s real USB programming, device emulation, and serial over USB this time, and the ability to use the Arduino serial monitor, something not found in the original Digispark.

There are also a few more shields this time around, with WiFi and Bluetooth shields available as additional rewards. Without the shields, the Digi Pro is cheap, and only $2 more per board than the original Digispark.

 

Black Mirror, Black Hole: Kill Your Television

don't waste your time TV screenWould you believe that some people think the internet is a time waster? Well, not at this particular address of course, but we can think of some other sites that are absolute rabbit holes without so much as a rousing game of croquet at the bottom. If you need help achieving what Tim Ferriss dubbed a Low Information Diet, there are browser extensions that will block your access to sites that keep you from getting things done. [Ivan's girlfriend] has taken this time management tack seriously and even created a simple web page that states “Don’t Waste Your Time!” that will show if she tries to get to Facebook.

There’s one small problem with all this, and it’s been around for a long time. [Ivan's girlfriend] still watches TV. Out of love and respect for her goals, he decided to prank her by blocking her TV viewing. In a delightful twist, the TV will display her own web page to her after 30 seconds.

They have digital and analog TVs, so he had to set up both in order to cover his bases. The digital TV is a monitor fed from a set-top box with HDMI out. As the STB can only be controlled via IR remote, [Ivan] used an HDMI switch to change from the STB input to a Raspi that will display the reprimanding web page and play Pink Floyd’s “Time“.

The analog TV took  slightly more doing. He put a Raspi on the AV input, but connected it from the inside so nothing looked suspicious. The Raspi checks the TV status every second and switches to the Pi once the TV is on. Same deal: judgmental web page, Pink Floyd. The beauty part is that both of [Ivan]‘s setups also record her reaction; the digital TV uses a dash camera and the analog  uses an Android phone. Check out [Ivan]‘s tour of the analog TV Pi after the break.

If you or [Ivan's girlfriend] need even more time management help, there’s always the roll-your-own-Pomodoro timer.

 

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Micro-Robots Are Scary Awesome

microrobots

A team of scientists at SRI international are creating real-life replicators from Star Gate SG1 — micro-robots capable of smart (and scary!) manufacturing. Thousands working in parallel will be able to achieve tasks previously unheard of, in a completely compact and integrated system.

These tiny ant-like robot systems are magnetically controlled and can use tools, move at incredible speeds, and swarm over surfaces. SRI’s vision was “to have an army of ants under your control”. It’s actually been an ongoing project since the 1990′s — but a recent undisclosed chunk of funding from DARPA has helped accelerate the project — giving it a new title of the MicroFactory for Macro Products project.

You have to see the video to believe it. Potential applications for these tiny swarm-bots include precise pick & place manufacturing, micro bio-technology, electronics manufacturing, and even rapid prototyping of high quality parts.

We get shivers just watching them slide around effortlessly on almost any surface.

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